Wednesday 20 January 2016

TOMB OF THE TRUMPS #14 - Devil Priest Pack Part XIV

Welcome back once again to the cavalcade of scary monsters and super creeps that is the Tomb of the Trumps! And this time we have some freaky folks that have proved over the years to be somewhat fiendish for students of Horror Top Trumpology to identify! First up we have this fishy fellow!

Now then, this weed-wreathed chap has foxed many folks, and this is down to a couple of key reasons. Firstly the still it is copied from doesn't appear to be anywhere online bizarrely - yes, hard to believe as it is, not everything is online! And secondly, although he (and indeed his weedy brethren) do appear in a reasonably well-known cult movie, he is never shown for very long on screen, and more importantly in the pose seen in the card. For the still the card is based on was a special publicity shot showcasing the creature design rather than a shot from an actual scene in the movie. 

But having seen the aforementioned publicity shot in a couple of horror movie tomes in the '70s, your humble scribe recognised him instantly - for this is a gill-man from City Under the Sea (1964) also known as War-Gods of the Deep in the US. City Under The Sea took its name from the Edgar Allan Poe poem of the same title, and hence fits loosely into AIP's cycle of Poe movies. Like the classic Corman productions that preceded, the movie stars the legendary Vincent Price, and was also was the last movie made by noted director Jacques Tourneur. Co-starring alongside St. Vincent was Tab Hunter, Susan Hart and David "Mr Banks in Mary Poppins" Tomlinson in a tale of Victorian folks who discover an undersea proto-steampunk kingdom of shipwrecked sailors run by Price, a Captain Nemo style maverick. It's a very fun slice of gothic SF, and the only downside to the movie really is that the wonderful gill-men costumes aren't ever seen quite to their full advantage - although they do look very menacing in the underwater sequences. However here he is in his full glory! 

So then, with that marine mystery wrapped up, let's move on to one of the most perplexing cards in the Horror Top Trumps world...

Alright, I appreciate that several pressing questions immediately spring to mind on seeing this card; ranging from the reasonable "what's the Norse god Thor doing in a horror themed deck?", to the more blunt - "what in the seven names of the fuck is that?!?"  And the answer to both these queries I'm afraid is that I have no bloody idea either! I can only assume that the fumes of the paints and pens used to create these cards were very potent indeed...

However, I do have a possible answer to that third question hammering inside your skull - why does in the name of Loki does he have four eyes?  Well, as we have already seen, and will see again, a favourite trick employed by the Unknown Artist who did these decks to disguise the fact that he was simply copying off various stills and pictures Top Trumps probably had no copyright clearance for whatsoever, was to add or subtract assorted ocular organs. Hence poor old Babs Steele went all cyclops when a pic of her from Curse of the Crimson Altar became High Priestess of Zoltan (see here for details).

So then, the quad-vision this strange figure is equipped with is a dead-giveaway that despite all evidence to the contrary suggesting that this is a product of a deranged imagination, "Thor" must have a basis somewhere in reality! Albeit a very heavily disguised one! For look closely at the card.... go on, I dare you! Observe the extremely shaky physique! And all those weird lines that suggest that our Unknown Artist was attempting something else before deciding to give up and just cover the lot with spikes and weird sketchy armour? Is it armour? Buggered if I know! However being no stranger to the pencil case and paint box myself, I can spot the signs of an artist improvising to cover-up a massive cock-up any day of the week! 

For "Thor" I believe began life as a copy of the famous Frank Franzetta painting "The Barbarian". Now I know that seems unlikely at first... but the more you look at the two images the more similarities you will see. Both have the same pose, and the sword hilts are identical. And their silhouettes are the same shape too - which is why Thor's head and helmet are so weird-looking. Indeed you can see traces of long hair underneath the helmet, and other signs that he was doing a more faithful copy but got the arms so wrong he decided to improvise wildly. Hence the Barbarian's spiky necklace becomes a weird goatee, and there's a liberal, almost frantic application of eyes and spikes in the hope that no one will notice he's attempted to rip off Franzetta and cocked it up royally!

Ah well, I suppose we getting near the end of the Devil Priest pack and I'm guessing a deadline was looming! And that might explain the lurid and bizarre offerings we're looking at at next time...     

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